Why it’s time to value brand strategy (again?)

A friend tweeted a link to this article about brand strategy today. The very same Nicki Sprinz with whom I had a chat about ‘big ideas’ over lunch on Saturday. I quite like them, she doesn’t, although we’re both ‘strategists’.

Anyway, this article is quite badly written – I am not sure what Adam Ferrier was doing that day, but he perhaps had other things on his mind. Planners often do… Anyway it’s a call to arms for planners to ‘innovate, create and play’, and amidst the mentalness of his writing style (maybe that’s why I liked the article so much) there are a several more very important points, which make reading the article worthwhile.

Here are some of the thoughts it provoked in me…

Business problems – what digital can do to solve business problems is huge. Yet often we’re tied up implementing something technical without thinking about it properly. If someone asks you to do a banner or a booking engine, ask them why they want it, find out what they really want their consumers to feel or believe when they see the banner or the booking engine, and take a step back and look at the big picture. Perhaps they want a banner because they’re not getting enough traffic to a particular place on their site, but maybe what they need isn’t a banner but more useful content…

You can’t really do content without having some form of ‘big idea’ or ‘territory’ or ‘manifesto’ sitting there in the background, supporting what you do and making your messaging more joined up. That’s all.

Redefining the discipline… He talks about the role of brand strategist (or planner) needing to be redefined. But I go back to my point in an earlier post. Planning is planning, is strategy, or whatever. You’re always answering the questions whatever it says in your email signature:

  • What are we trying to achieve? (From a business and a comms point of view)
  • Who are we targeting and why? And what insight are we operating around?
  • What do we want people to say/think/feel/do?
  • How are we going to get there?
  • And then returning to the question what are we trying to achieve to check, ‘is this right’? And then going back to the beginning if it’s not (being fairly agile about it, innit.)

I don’t think that we need to redefine the role at all. We don’t need to re-write the creative brief. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel either. His point that brand strategy needs to be taken more seriously in digital agencies is very important though. Brand strategy gives weight and meaning to everything we do. Strategists should be thicker on the ground than they are. Then we might get less implementation briefs and more thinking ones.

So, here are some questions.

  • What digital agencies do take brand strategy seriously and what can we learn from them?
  • What trad ad agencies with famously good planning departments are making the move into digital well?
  • Does it really matter? Shall we all just stop talking about it and get on with doing some work instead?


Filed under Work

8 responses to “Why it’s time to value brand strategy (again?)

  1. To answer a set of questions, with a question:

    Would a *brand* strategist, rather than say a strategist or planner, be likely to consider important aspects such as, generosity, multi-facetedness, responsiveness and propagation? Would the brand strategist consider the digital ecosystem within which the idea needs to play out in? The rules of each social platform, eg Twitter versus Facebook?

    I guess, I’m wondering if Adam Ferrier is right–is it the brand strategist who is going to solve all these problems / questions, the ones that exists in a digital world?

  2. katebordwell

    We’re all dealing with brands here, we should be in the business of brand-building… Who cares about the channel? It’s not impossible to understand them well enough to know where things should go, what should work for the target audience. My argument is that we’re all ‘whatever strategists’. We should all be brand, propogation, integration, connection, etc planners/strategists because we should be able to do all that kind of thing. But ultimately, we are building brands. We’re all brand strategists.

  3. katebordwell

    Yes indeed, me too. But we all have to care about brands, is my point.

  4. Not sure what to reply – only that I agree I can hardly follow the logic of the argument – the article is indeed badly written. However, I do know how you’ve structured what a planner does in the 5 bullet points feels a) old school, b) us vs them, c) consumer centric (vs business centric or NPD centric, or partnership centric), d) doesn’t take into account co-collaboration (consumer and producer), nor does it take into account strategy through opportunity – rather than the other way around. Not saying you’re wrong – just that there must be many other ways to reinvent what is a largely tired post-rationalised profession.

    All good interesting stuff to ponder.

    • katebordwell

      Hmm, given that you are the second person who has complained about this article, I think I’ll re-write it soon. I’m using this blog as a place to explore some of the ideas/theories I’ve read about planning, also for working out ways I can do my job better.

      I really appreciate comments like yours which will move the argument forward so I hope this wont be your only visit.

  5. Pingback: I re-wrote a post about brand strategy so hopefully it makes sense now | Think bubbles

  6. Pingback: Why I am tired of the big idea debate | Think bubbles

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